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May 24

The End of Antibiotics?

Ecoli BacteriaSeveral times, we have mentioned the concern that is developing about antibiotic resistant bacteria (see our past article, “Doctors Are Afraid of Bugs”). Modern laparoscopic surgery techniques have dramatically lowered the risk of infection during surgery procedures. However, there is still some risk of contamination any time a patient sustains a wound, including surgical wounds.

Surgeons, operating room staff members and the entire hospital staff all go to great lengths to prevent infection, but they still occur sometime. Most of these infections are treated successfully with antibiotics, but drug resistance is growing. At the same time, the antibiotic pipeline of new drugs is running dry. Now, an old idea is getting a new look.

The idea of using bacteriophages (viruses that attack bacteria) to treat human disease has been around for decades, but it fell out of favor when drugs like penicillin became available in the 1940s. Last week, the journal, Nature Medicine published a report of a genetically engineered virus, a bacteriophage, being used to treat a life-threatening infection that was not responding to any known antibiotic. The patient was a young girl suffering from cystic fibrosis who had a post-surgical infection that did not respond to any available antibiotic drug.  A combination of three phages wiped out an infection that had plagued the patient for eight years, then flared up after she underwent a lung transplant.

Of course, this is only one, early report of success with this therapy. Still, it offers hope to a medical world that is facing more and more antibiotic resistant “bugs.” We should all be hopeful that this research will continue and produce completely new ways of treating life-threatening infections

If you have any question about procedures like laparoscopic hernia surgery, minimally invasive breast surgery, bariatric surgery or any other area included in general surgery, please contact our office. You may use Contact Dr Birkedal or phone us at (386) 210-9794. Our offices, located in Daytona, New Smyrna and Palm Coast are all part of the AdventHealth Medical Group.

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